by Mathias Haufiku
Lawmakers have demanded and gotten many privileges over the years, but this time around the country’s political elite want government to provide them with accommodation on grounds the rent they pay is too exorbitant.
MPs made the proposal during the debate on the vote of the Ministry of Works and Transport. They called for the establishment of a ‘parliament village’ which will cater for MPs’ housing needs during their five-year parliamentary tenure.
Initiating the debate was the Deputy Minister of Safety and Security, Erastus Utoni, who said new MPs who come from the regions are finding it difficult to find decent accommodation in Windhoek because of high rentals.
Utoni said some landlords charge astronomic amounts, as much as N$15 000, “which many MPs cannot afford”, adding that MPs are the leaders of the country therefore they need to be catered for.
Ordinary members of parliament earn about N$550 000 per annum, inclusive of perks. This translates to about N$45 000 per month.
“It is very disturbing for new MPs coming from the regions to come struggle with accommodation. MPs must be assured of accommodation when they come and not be stressed,” said Utoni.
He said the situation is so bad that some MPs are forced to squat with friends or relatives.
“The ministry should make provision in the budget for flats to be built where MPs can stay while in parliament,” he said.
The former mayor of Ongwediva also accused landlords of inflating the rental asking price as soon as they learn an MP is interested in renting a house.
“As for those who get ministerial appointments, it is even more difficult when you squat because the two official vehicles you get are parked in the sun because of a lack of space,” he said.
According to Utoni, new MPs cannot be expected to buy a house during their first term in parliament.
DTA of Namibia MP Elna Dienda asked Utoni why MPs are reluctant to look for accommodation in Katutura.
Utoni answered: “I have been searching all over, even in Otjomuise, Goreangab but the prices are high because when they [homeowners] hear you are a MP they push up the price.”
“I remember after independence the colleagues who were in parliament then were assisted with houses and therefore did not have this problem,” he said.
Swapo MP and Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, Jerry Ekandjo, immediately intervened, saying: “Only ministers and deputy ministers got houses because there was a lot of empty government houses at the time.”
The Minister of Safety and Security Charles Namoloh was in support of Utoni’s proposal, saying the issue has been discussed for years in parliament.
“We have discussed this for long, let us just commit ourselves and do it. In Angola MPs have houses, but when you leave the house it is not yours … we can use the same concept,” he said.
Namoloh accused his fellow MPs of not committing themselves to ensure the accommodation needs of MPs are catered for.
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Loide Kasingo said provision has been made for MPs’ accommodation in the plans of the envisaged new parliament.
Government is in the process of building a new parliament building valued at over N$600 million.
Minister of Justice Dr Albert Kawana also supported the proposal.
“In Zambia MPs have a parliament village. Money should be allocated so that a village can be constructed. These are our leaders and they cannot suffer like that,” he said.
The latest demand by MPs will anger thousands of home seekers who have endured years of pleading with lawmakers to formulate laws that will regulate the price of rent, especially in Windhoek, but those pleas just fell on deaf ears.
Rent prices continue to affect many Windhoek residents and because of a lack of affordable houses many potential homeowners are condemned to being tenants.